We’re entering week four. I’m usually very disciplined about writing, and haven’t been blocked since I discovered blogging. However I’m totally unfocused and crazed. Today I met one of my oldest friends at the Dean & Deluca in The Village. I think 2007 was a theme year for me. Reconciliation with my past and myself. Think it’s great to leave on a high note. I do think I had one too many coffee’s this week–never knew there was such a thing, and might turn into a tea drinker
Next week I’m not even going to try to be productive and go to museums.
Week three of the renovation–the apartment should be painted by the end of the week. Has a lot of molding and beamed ceilings. Next Monday and Tuesday is the sanding. The cabinet under the very adorable kitchen sink has to be replaced, and a zillion other things. The weather is yucky.
Went to a lecture last night with a friend on “how to sell your home.” Keyword being “home.” This is Manhattan. The lecturer gave examples of selling a coop his way. But no coop, that has to go through a board, can be sold in a month. It’s almost physically impossible.
The building staff has bets on how quickly my apartment will go. My doorman Fernando told me this morning he would have lost his mind in the first week. I’m beginning to hate Starbucks, but it’s near my house. I have lost my mind. In a good way 🙂
–Here’s a page with the prior chapters. I write the chapters in advance and add the words. They are true first drafts.
-West Virginia 2030
Cornelia needed a drink, cigarette, joint anything. What kind of hotel didn’t have a minibar, and a silver monogrammed RJ Reynolds smokeless-joint holder? The clothes were truly gross. This couldn’t be her room. She found a cherry red rayonette night gown and put it on with matching mules. Cornelia quickly and expertly put on makeup
She didn’t need the matching robe. Cornelia admired herself in the three way mirror in the dressing room. Skinny, so skinny. The night gown was a bit too big. She would never buy something that didn’t totally cling to her body. Her hair felt soft from the minerals in the swimming pool. Once swimming pools didn’t have skin softeners. She should take a shower but wasn’t in the mood. She tried to open the suite door and go to the hotel lobby.
Why couldn’t she open the door? She needed air badly. Cornelia opened the patio door and breathed in the fresh air, not realizing she was in a converted mine shaft. She sat on a chaise, watched the sun go down and thought that the pink sky meant tomorrow was going to be hot. She had to get to the ocean beach, but first she needed to relax. Stars there were so many stars.
“But I want it to be hot and sunny.’ Cornelia pouted to nobody in particular. One of Justin’s people was monitoring the room. She changed the enhanced holograms to “day” “tropical.” Soon Cornelia forgot that it had just been night. She took her nightgown off and was just wearing cherry thongs. People no longer got sunburned though most people still wore sunblock. Cornelia thought that very silly, a needless pretentious homage to an old world.
Cornelia looked in the solar operated mini-fridge next to the chaise. She had never seen one stocked solely with healthy energy, or calmness drinks before. Not an alcoholic drink or a Coke Freer to be found. She took a ginger raspberry fizz energy drink, and laid down on the chaise.
Cornelia tried to remember where she and Del had come to the hotel from. Why did her memory feel like swiss on cream cheese? Not that she had ever tried that….She didn’t seem to be able to hold onto a thought. Oh right, they must have come from….hadn’t it been a rainy day? They must have been in a traffic jam and the cars headlights had beamed rays of light on them. No, that was wrong. Stop thinking Cornelia. Del told her she didn’t have specific memories because she had been in an accident. No she was supposed to live for the here and now. She was specially chosen to brighten rooms and peoples lives. She smiled at that thought then pouted Brightness was good, but there was another kind. She was intelligent, very intelligent, wasn’t she? Stop thinking, Cornelia.
Thinking is the enemy of the elite, wasn’t it? She began to dance to hip hop playing in her brain. In a few minutes she forgot about Del.
Justin, the ISB Behavioral Division head, Ona, and several behavioral specialists were having a virtual meeting. Justin was obviously agitated and kept walking with his back to the video cams. Ona told him to relax.
How can I relax when we don’t know what’s happening?
We’re analyzing the scans of the chip in Nell’s brain. It takes longer to do than with the real thing. The USC seems to have invented a virtual filter that covers the cerebral cortex and most of the brain. The actual brain scans….
How the f–k. How can they be so far ahead of us? They’re not just closing in on us; they’re taking over.
They’re not. You know we’ve been experimenting with brain filters. Give us 72 hours….
What if we don’t have 72 hours?
Justin, this is all new technology. Five years ago we never could have analyzed brains from video cam images. You have to talk to Nell. At this point every thing’s iffy. We don’t know if this is a psychotic break, organic brain damage or just a hallucination. You’re the person closest to her. Go along with the fantasy. Use Nadia if you have to. You might even have to use Del or Denny.
Del’s a gibbering idiot. Denny’s crazy and I wouldn’t sic Nadia on Bin Laden.
Justin, you have to work with what you have. The USC’s been perfecting mind control but we have more sophisticated equipment and better people. You were able to stun them all using stuns we perfected almost overnight from their prototype. Nell’s an intuitive, the best in the world. We have to believe that the real Nell is still there. She’s never lost a fight and isn’t going to now….
She’s been subjected to so much. Maybe this was the final indignity.
If you enter her world as it is now, you might be able to bring her back to her real self.
Might isn’t good enough.
It’s all we have.
Justin unlocked the door to Nell’s suite. He saw her on the patio dancing to music only she heard. His heart was broken. Justin, the ultimate professional didn’t know if he could talk to her. He walked out to the patio. She turned around. Nell played with makeup for different occasions. She could look preppy, glamorous and everything in between. Cornelia’s eyes were rimmed with too much black. The black mascara was in clumps Her cherry lipstick exactly matched the nightgown, and thongs. She had put blush and the lipstick in round circles on her cheekbones. Nell would have used the cherry lipstick as a base toning it down with two or three other colors.
When they were younger Nell had pointed out women who wore blush in round circles. She said that was a give away for certain types of schizophrenics. He loved to watch Nell play with makeup. She could do it for hours and make herself look like all types of women.
It was one of the games they played. Nell, the wanton slut was one of his favorite characters, but this wasn’t Nell, anybody.
You, pool boy, did you bring cigarettes? A joint, some drinks?
He had taken a pack of Nadia’s cigarettes. Fortunately they had brought several cartons to the house. He handed her a cigarette.
You going to light it or just stand there, poolboy?
Oh of course.
She inhaled as if she were smoking a joint. He wanted to tell her to stop. She looked as if she were going to pass out. He helped her onto the chaise.
Are you alright?
Dizzy. Very dizzy, but….She felt her lips and ran into the room to a mirror.
What the hell? Why do I have this gross makeup on? Where are my clothes?
No, I’m not Nell. You know that. I’m–oh it doesn’t matter. Let me get this off.
She walked into the bathroom, and began taking the makeup off with cream.
Can you get me a robe?
He got the matching one.
No, something warmer. I’m freezing, and can’t believe I’m standing here talking to you, somebody I barely know dressed like this.
Who am I?
What an absurdly dumb question. You know who you are.
No I mean to you.
You know what you mean to me. We’re two strangers who meet once a year solely to have sex. Names are meaningless to us. So let’s have sex. The meter’s running.
No Nell that’s a game we play. We play many games like that. I’m Justin, your husband. You’re Nell….
Stop it, you’re making my head hurt. Truthfully I’m nobody and everybody. I have nor past nor a future. I exist to please you. Isn’t that what you want me to say?
Barren of makeup with a dusty rose chenille bathrobe, Nell looked young, and would have been beautiful if her expression hadn’t been both blank and scared.
Nell lets sit on the couch and talk.
I don’t want to sit on the couch and I have nothing to say to you. I’m not Nell and I have no idea who you are.
I’m Justin, your….
You keep saying that but if you were you would have my favorite music playing. You’d have my favorite food and this room would be decorated for me. I’m Cornelia, I am. You want me to forget that. You’re a cruel man, playing with my head.
He quickly ordered Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.”
Too easy. Every woman loves that song.
He ordered “Ophelia,” “What a Wonderful World” and ten other songs.
You love 20th Century rock, blues, some jazz. Your favorite foods are lobster rolls, spinach sauteed in garlic, almost any kind of salad, especially Ceasar, and flourless chocolate cake made with the darkest chocolate and almost no sugar. Never regular lobster and the spinach has to be sauteed in olive oil. I’ll order them for you.
You will? You do know about me but anybody can find out that kind of information. Anybody can find out anything.
She stared at him as if she were looking at him for the first time and taking him all in.
You have a kind face. I feel, I feel as if I should know you? OK, do I always say “as if” instead of “like?”
Yes, actually you do.
And you find that endearing. It’s quaint like the 20th century pre-myutube American accents I can do.
Blanche DuBois. A Streetcar….They both said that at once and burst out laughing. She lit a cigarette and took a drag.
The cigarette, it’s making me dizzy. How do people smoke?
They get used to the carbon….
I know that. It was a rhetorical question. Are you always so literal? Is the food coming. I’m hungry, I think. I think that I’m not sure of anything. You say you’re Justin and I’m Nell. I don’t feel like a Nell and I don’t know you. Wouldn’t I feel something if we were married? Something more than my body craving yours? Nice people don’t say things like that. I’m not a nice person.
You’re not always the nicest person, but you’re the best person I know. Let me try to explain.
He told her a brief version of everything that had happened.
That’s crazy. If it were a book, nobody would read it. Hard copy or downloaded. You write books don’t you? Strange futuristic novels that everybody reads. Why should I believe anything you say to me? You lie for a living.
Justin didn’t know what to say. This was beyond him. All he could say was:
You know I write books.
Lucky guess. You look like somebody who would write sci fi books. I said you were successful to make you feel good.
The food had come. She bit into the lobster roll and spit it out.
You were wrong. I thought you were right I wanted to believe you, but I don’t like this. I don’t think I like food at all. I’m tired. I want that woman.
You know, the woman who was going to help me find my prince. The woman who could help me see the light that had pretty angels. My doll. Do you have my doll. I need to talk to her.
Nell, I explained….
Who’s Nell? I’m Ella. I’m a princess, and the woman takes care of me. You’re a man. Men don’t know how to take care of princesses who are looking for angels.
Why are you here? Can you get the woman? I need her body.
She guzzled two more raspberry ginger fizzes. They had the antidote in them, but Justin knew the antidote was probably ten steps beyond whatever Nadia had put in the meds. In an hour Nell had gone from being Cornelia to somebody with a vague similiarity to Nell to Ella.